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Mon, Mar 16, 2009

WWII Vet Presented With Pieces Of His Wrecked Plane

Meets Witness Of His B-17s Downing Over Bavaria

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stanton Rickey, 88 was presented with pieces of his downed B-17 last week by two German men who not only located the crash site on their farm in Bavaria... but also traveled to the US to meet the plane's former pilot.

Kurt Hauber was only an 11-year-old boy when Rickey, then 23, was shot down by Luftwaffe fighter planes over his family's Bavarian farm on July 18, 1944. But his vivid memories of that day inspired his nephew Ludwig to acquire a metal detector and search for the plane's wreckage.

"They not only found my aircraft, they expanded the search of the entire area and located other crash sites of American and German aircraft," Rickey told The Arizona Republic. "It's been super cultivating friendships with them. We've become very close because of our shared experience."

On the fateful day of the B-17s downing, Rickey had received orders to bomb a manufacturing plant in Bavaria that was building the Messerschmitt Me-262.
High above Memmigen, Germany, Rickey was flying one of 26 B-17 bombers from the 483rd Bomber Group that braved bad weather and anti-aircraft fire before being confronted by 200 German fighter planes.

"I was the last one out of the airplane. We were hit at 25,000 feet and I got out about 5,000 feet as the plane was spinning," Rickey said. "We lost 14 of our 26 aircraft" on the bombing raid. "That's 140 people, and 40 percent of them were killed." He was subsequently captured and taken to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Last Friday, Rickey and the Haubers were at Falcon Field Airport, preparing to board a North American B-25H Mitchell bomber operated by Warbirds Unlimited Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving aviation history and honoring veterans. Rickey and his two German guests were treated to a complimentary ride to commemorate the occasion.

Retired commercial pilot and executive director of Warbirds Unlimited Foundation Jack Fedor told the East Valley Tribune, "We exist to honor WWII veterans. This is exactly what we're all about."

Rickey said the Haubers have helped bring closure for him and to the mission in which so many of his fellow aviators paid the ultimate sacrifice. "What they have done is wonderful," Rickey said.

FMI: www.warbirdsunlimited.org

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